Use caution as hazards escalate with road work


Springtime and the Easter season rise as prime time for renewal and improvement on personal, spiritual and even practical fronts. Nowhere will that renewal be more visible than on the streets and highways of the Mahoning Valley through the spring and summer work-zone seasons.

But with that much-anticipated renewal to many of our congested and potholed thoroughfares also comes the increased potential for life-threatening danger.

Even without the added hazards of road-work zones for motorists, 2019 thus far has shaped up to be noteworthy for its spike in traffic fatalities in our state and region.

Statewide, as of April 16, traffic fatalities have jumped from 254 in 2018 to 275 this year, continuing a disturbing trend. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, fatal traffic crashes in the state jumped from 918 in 2013 to 1,074 in 2017.

In the Mahoning Valley, the data is even more troubling. According to the OSHP, seven more fatal traffic crashes have been reported in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties so far this year than during the same time period in 2018.

Now through fall, the hazards will multiply as more than $41 million in Ohio Department of Transportation projects are slated for work in Mahoning County through the fall. These include $25 million in improvements to Interstate 680, including the completion of a new interchange at state Route 164 in Beaver Township and repairs and restoration of 12 bridges over the highway.

An additional $7.1 million project calls for a massive repaving of the heavily traveled U.S. Route 224 corridor from state Route 11 in Canfield to Interstate 680 in Poland.

Many accidents over the next five months of the year take place in those road-work zones and in areas where other vehicles sit idle on the side of the roadway.

That’s why cautious, careful and commonsensical driving must rule the road. And that’s why the Ohio Highway Patrol this month is stepping up its “Move Over, Slow Down” campaign to remind all motorists of the basics of the Move Over law in Ohio and in all other states of the union.

WHAT LAW SAYS

The law in Ohio, enacted in 2004 and expanded in 2009, requires all drivers to move over one traffic lane whenever approaching any vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside or in construction zones. If moving over is not possible due to traffic or weather conditions, motorists should slow down and proceed with extreme caution. Failure to do so could land drivers with a misdemeanor conviction and hefty fines.

Troopers from the Highway Patrol handed out more than 6,000 citations across Ohio last year for violating the “move over” law, which represented a 59 percent increase over 2017 levels. Troopers and other road-law enforcers should act just as aggressively this.

Last year, 14 people died in work-zone vehicle collisions across the state – including a Mahoning County worker killed along Interstate 680 – and more than 900 people were injured, ODOT reports.

Across the nation, these types of crashes kill one tow-truck driver every six days; 23 highway workers and one law-enforcement officer every month; and five firefighters a year.

Clearly, the stakes are high. That’s why all motorists should follow this vital Move Over-related advice from the state patrol:

Don’t speed. Obey reduced speed limits in work zones. It takes less than a minute to drive through a 2-mile work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph. One of the most common causes of work-zone crashes is excessive speed.

Don’t tailgate. Most accidents in work zones are rear-end collisions.

Stay alert. Dedicate ull attention to the roadway. The traffic pattern in a work zone may be shifted, and lanes may be closed.

Watch for orange work-zone directional signs, obey flaggers, and be aware of workers and equipment that may be moving in a lane near you.

By seriously following such sage advice, motorists can go far toward preventing a minor short-term inconvenience from morphing into a major long-term tragedy.

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